By Innocent Anaba & Ikechukwu Nnochiri
The Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, yesterday, threatened to declare all National Assembly members unfit to represent the Nigerian people and fight against their re-election, if they refuse to pass many people oriented legislation presently pending before them, including the Freedom of Information Bill.
The association also warned that militancy in the Niger Delta region will continue until the Federal Government honestly addresses the environmental and economic concerns of the region and sanction oil multi-nationals that cause widespread damage to human rights.
Speaking at the “NBA President 1st Round table on the Review of the State of Human Rights in Nigeria” in Abuja, yesterday, on the many people oriented bills pending before the National Assembly, President of the association, Mr. Joseph Daudu, SAN, said “It seems to us in the NBA that if such heavy amount of legislative work is left undone; then the legislators have failed and do not deserve the mandate of the people to return.
“If this situation persists until March 2011, the NBA will have no option than to declare all present legislators unelectable and that the people should reject them at the next general election.
This would serve as a lesson to all those who rise to power through the mandate of the People and forget them when they have reached their legislative kingdom. Unless votes will not count, Nigerians will reject all those who have ridden to power on their bare backs and turned around to act either exclusively in the promotion of their own selfish interest or against the people’s interest. To be forewarned is to be fore armed.”
On the renewed crisis in the Niger Delta region, he said “President Goodluck Jonathan may desperately want to see an end to the conflict in the Niger Delta but the poverty and conflict that continues to scar the Niger Delta will not be resolved until underlying causes, including decades of environmental damage and impunity for abuses of the environment and human rights ends, and until the Nigerian government garners sufficient political will and the means to deal with the oil company activities that cause widespread damage to human rights.
“The NBA has severally stated that the situation in the Niger Delta is a “human rights tragedy,” and requires a human rights approach.
The people of the region have seen their economic, social and cultural rights abused by oil companies that the government of Nigeria cannot or will not hold to account.
People living in the Niger Delta have to drink, cook with and wash in polluted water. They eat fish contaminated with oil and other toxins, if they are lucky enough to be able to still find fish.”
The land they farm on is being destroyed.
“After oil spills the air they breathe smells of oil, gas and other pollutants. People complain of breathing problems and skin lesions and yet neither the government nor the oil companies monitor the human impacts of oil pollution.
We firmly believe that the human rights impact of pollution in the Niger Delta is greatly under_reported.
The majority of people in the Niger Delta depend on the natural environment for their food and livelihood, particularly through agriculture and fisheries. It is regrettable that government is aware of the risks that oil-related pollution poses for human rights, but has failed to take measures to ensure those rights are not harmed.
“Some oil companies, for their part, have taken advantage of this government failure, and have shown a shocking disregard for the human impact of their activities. There have been some recent signs of improvement, however.
The recently-established National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, NOSDRA, appear to have a more robust approach. We welcome the more pro_active approach NOSDRA appears to want to take but it needs more resources. The government must address the human impact of oil industry pollution.
They have a duty to protect their citizens from human rights abuse or harm by businesses – and they are failing in that duty,” he added.